The Detroit Lions will lose second-year left tackle Taylor Decker for four to six months as he recovers from surgery to a torn labrum. The injury reportedly occurred a few weeks ago during OTA’s. Decker’s loss stymies enthusiasm for what appeared on paper to be the most impressive offensive line in the NFC North.
The Lions drafted Decker 16th overall in the 2016 draft. The former Ohio State Buckeye established himself quickly, earning All-Rookie team honors from the Pro Football Writers Association. He also finished the season with a No. 23 positional ranking from Pro Football Focus.
In our NFC North Offseason Synopsis, we spotlighted the Lions free agent signings of right tackle Ricky Wagner and guard T.J. Lang as key upgrades to the unit. However, with Decker potentially missing the first eight games of the regular season, the Lions must quickly find a quality replacement.
Option No. 1
Initially, the best option here would seem to be moving Wagner over to left tackle. Wagner entered the league as a solid left tackle out of Wisconsin in 2013 and offers the Lions some versatility there.
In this scenario, the Lions could start backup Cornelius Lucas at right tackle. Lucas has filled the role, replacing injured starters, at various points throughout his career since joining the Lions as a rookie free agent in 2014.
Option No. 2
Keep Wagner at right tackle, the position for which the Lions paid him big money ($47.5 million over five years). This would mean Lucas competing with fellow backups Corey Robinson, Joe Dahl and recently signed journeyman Tony Hills to replace Decker at left tackle. This is also the more likely scenario of the two proposed options.
Regardless of the what the Lions starting offensive line looks like on opening day, they face a daunting first half of the season without Decker. In that span, they’ll confront the Steelers, Vikings, Panthers and Giants – all teams with voracious defensive fronts.